Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sirius (2001)

It seemed especially cold and rainy, sitting on a bench at the train station. The river was murky and green, foreboding, bone-chilling, its surface a series of whitecaps. I contrasted this to that day, nearly three weeks ago, when the World Trade Center was destroyed. It was such a beautiful early fall day, bright and full of promise. I remember years ago, when a Stony Brook administrator died from AIDS on a crisp, blue-sky February day, and a friend said to me, “it's too nice a day to die.”

But I guess weather has nothing to do with it. I had a memory as I waited on the platform of a report I saw on television two weeks ago. A police officer, who had an office in one of the basement levels of the World Trade Center tearfully spoke about his survival, and his loss. He was in the building when it fell, and he was pulled out of the wreckage and survived. But his dog, they called him his partner, a honey-colored Labrador-looking young dog named Sirius, had been left in a kennel in the cop’s office while the officer went to check things out early in the attack. Sirius was missing, he said.

I hoped for days as they searched the burning, twisted wreckage that maybe when they got to the mall level there would be survivors, tucked away in a part of the basement that didn’t collapse, and that Sirius would be among them. But since that report I have heard nothing, and I’m sure such a find would have been broadcast since it would be nothing less than a miracle. I know they have done all they could to inspect every crevice where a living thing could fit. Under the circumstances, I’m sure they would report Sirius as a survivor, too.

People who don’t love animals, and perhaps even some who do, may think I am crazy or insensitive for writing this, but that dog’s image, wearing a police vest and a smile, sitting alongside his human partner, has become emblazoned in my mind as a symbol for the horror of this tragedy.

This was not a part of the original story, but was gathered from snippets written here over the years: In January 2002, Sirius' remains were finally found, and in April 2002, there was a tribute to him. As part of that effort, I submitted the story I wrote, and in May 2002, I received a very nice email from John Kavanaugh, the man who managed the Port Authority's memorial website, reporting that my story had been selected for posting.

Then in November 2002, Officer David Lim wrote me a note. He was Sirius' person. He thanked me for my story about his partner, the only dog to die 9/11, and let me know that I captured his thoughts on that day. It was so nice to hear from him, and it was such a wonderful compliment about one of my most heartfelt, and saddest, essays. Resonating with the reader is the goal of every writer. So, thank you, Officer Lim.

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